tv Inside Story Al Jazeera March 24, 2016 2:00am-2:31am EDT
thank you for joining us. the news continues here on al jazeera. >> it was an historic moment, 88 years in the making. president obama speaking to the government and citizens of communist cuba on the island's capital city. the first sitting president to visit cuba since calvin coolidge, back in 1978. so with when all of the ceremonies, photo ops and speeches were over, was it all
just political theater? or did the president really usher in a new era? it's the "inside story". welcome to "inside story," i'm sheila macvicar, in for ray suarez. it was a whirlwind tour for president obama. three days of diplomacy, meetings, and even a baseball game. but while the president seems to be warming up to his cuban counterpart, raul castro, the differences may be more evident than ever before. reporting from havana. >> reporter: it was the most anticipated part of president barack obama's historic visit, a message earmarked directly to the cuban people. >> i have come here to bury the last remnant of the cold war in the americas.
because in many ways the united states and cuba are like two brothers who have been estranged for many years, even as we share the same blood. >> reporter: the u.s. leader's speech at the majestic grand theater was broadcast live throughout cuba. watching intently as obama said that he believed in the right of citizens for free speech, to organize, to criticize their government, and choose their government and free and democratic election, all of this without u.s. interference. >> i would love to embrace him, not just see him. there are so many things we need to change. >> change. >> reporter: they were also words directed specifically at producers raul castro. >> i believe my visit here means that you do not need to feel a threat from the united states, and i am also confident
that you need not fear the different voices of the cuban people. >> with that, obama went to meet directly with the cuban dissidents, more than a dozen who are divided on whether the u.s. president's visit helps or hinders their causing. >> in contrast to other european and latin american dignitaries, come to cuba and met with us. today's meeting was non-negotiable. >> reporter: before the meeting, obama attended a symbolic baseball game between cuba's national team and an american major league team. critics at home are certain to cue of not being tough enough on his cuban counterparts. both countries are navigating in uncharted waters. both uncertain in how this new chapter in cuban relations will
ultimately play out. both leaders will be off the island soon. cuba's president saw off his guest, serious differences between the two governments remain. but for many ordinary cubans, that's no longer an impediments to friendship. lucille newman, aljazeera, havana. >> the u.s. and cuba, a new era, joining me for that conversation, pedro has an international practice that co-chairs the cuban form. senior at lat american progress, andan lift at the kato institute. thank you for joining me. pedro, i'd like to grin but, and not only were you in havana, but you were in that theater, there as president obama delivered his remarks, and take us into that theater and what was it like?
>> it was an amazing scene. i was in a second level balcony with a bunch of other cuban americans. 300 yards in front of me was president obama. 100 yards to the side was raul castro. president obama came in to thunderous applause. he first paid tribute to the victims of brussels, and then he said i'm here to talk to the cuban people, i'm here to end the cold war, and then he did something remarkable. he spoke in spanish, and he used perhaps the most well-known piece of poetry to cuba, the white rose, and it says if you offer a white rose to your friend and to your enemy, and you could hear a gasp, and a welcome gasp in the audience when he said that, and he said it in spanish, and he picked those words because they symbolize reconciliation.
and he started the speech on that wonderful note and it just built from there, it was a magnificent piece of oracle. >> well, carlos, you wrote last month that the test for you for this visit was truly, with dissidents, and an uncensored speech to the cuban people. let's talk about that speech. was that truly uncensored, blunt, and in the kind of language that you and others were looking for? >> it was from a previous head of state that headed to havana in recent years. instead of meeting with dissidents, and talking about human rights, they kicked castro's ring. it was a nice departure from what we've seen from other heads of state, not only from america, but francoise hollande who went to cuba recently.
i wish that president obama would have been more forceful and blunt and assertive in the need of respecting human rights in cuba and the need for greater freedoms, but he certainly met the standards, met by former president, jimmy carter when he went to cuba and called for greeter freedoms and democracy. and president obama did just that. now, i'm kind of cautious, not optimistic about whether this is going to be the beginning of a new era. we have seen this before, with pope john paul ii, and jimmy carter, and i don't think that this is from the middle that much. but still, to the people of the island, they feel energized by this visit. and i'm not fearing the position, since they know better. >> molly, what did you hear in that speech that struck you? >> i think that the speech was remarkable because of the tone
that he struck, so i would disagree a little bit with juan charles and it's a balancing act. you want to have a little bit of heart and a little bit of soft. and what he did powerfully throughout the visit, it was a little bit of diplomatic. he didn't have to be that hard. he let raul walk into that himself. in an awkward moment of the press conference where he tried to deny that there are political prisoners, and i think that it was a brill wentient way to use that soft engagement in a really diplomatic way. >> let me jump in here to what molly just said, the voice on the street. and after the speech, it was a fantastic speech, cubans all decked out to see our
president, and the streets are completely empty because there was a lot of tight security around the palace, and there were a bunch of cubans yelling, and we went to them and we did a little bit of crowd surfing, and what they kept saying about obama is how well spoken he was, and how respectful he had been of the cuban people. and i think that's a key point. it was that magnificent speech. i love that entry. he really, really finessed this, and i betcha, if today you have a poll in cuba, if you had an election in cuba, obama would be elected president. he really made a terrific, terrific impression. >> obviously the president of the united states is not soon going to be running for the president of cuba. imagine. >> yes, indeed. but there's a question here. and the question is, in saying what he said, in taking that step and in going to cuba, has
the united states basically lost whatever clout it might have had to push for change, to push for the kind of changes that obama said were necessary? >> the united states tried the pose of isolating cuba, trying to bring about change in havana, through economic sanctions, through travel bans, and it didn't work, i mean, the best evidence that it didn't work, those sanctions have been in place for 50 years, and the castro brothers are still in power. so this should not be seen as a quilled pro quo. certainly, there's more chance that you're going to bring about freedoms in cuba if the cuban population is free to prosper. and i don't think that by punishing people through sanctions you're going to reach that goal. >> cuba, a new era. it's "inside story". >> al jazeera america - proud of telling your stories.
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>> the u.s. in cuba, i'm speaking to my guests. let's pick up on this question. we're now in a process of engagement. and that's what the president's policy is, engagement. and where does this go, and how far can this go, molly? >> one thing that the president has reiterated time and again, this will take time. it's not something that's going
to happen tomorrow. so while i'm optimistic, as juan carlos said he was sceptical, i'm more optimistic about that. but it's going to take time. you can't just -- there's an opening in the economy, but that doesn't necessarily mean change. and pedro is doing his best to do that. but it's a challenge virn many. it's very much a regime controlled island. and it's going to take time. >> pedro, you're the go-to guy for american companies looking to invest in cuba, and what kind of opportunities are they going to pace and what kind of opportunities will they find there? >> i always say that we're planting the seeds of capitalism in an arid layup of a socialistic economy.
so it takes water and the truth is that it will take awhile, absolutely. and this is something that it's important that we talk about it. and it's managing expectations. we live in an era of instant grant fix, and an era of talking heads that know the answer to everything, and in cuba, we have a particularly large number of talking heads that for 55 years, if you held on for a little bit more, the regime would collapse and go away, and all would be well, and we would get all of our houses back and all of the cows left in 1959 and all of descendents too, and it didn't happen that way. but they were willing to wait 55 years. we have been at this 15 months, and we're already seeing the changes in cuban society. but it will take a long time. what i tell my clients, it's a major effort in managing expectations.
many think that this is like opening a burger king in kansas city. it isn't. you're not in kansas anymore. can you get all of the control and go there with the best of intentions, you can be smart, friendly, open, and then you have to jump awful want bureaucratic hurdles in cuba, which are not insignificant. in terms of opportunity, the opportunities are there, but there needs to be a cautionary note here, cuba is not china or vietnam in size. cuba is cuba. it's the beautiful large island, the largest in the caribbean. i'm very biased, i was born there, and it's a beautiful place, but the economy is limited at the moment and it needs to grow. >> is business enough of an engine to bring about the change that the president wants to see in cuba? >> what we have seen in the past, for example, the example of chile and san juan and south
korea, to open up their economy, to create a middle-class, you can only accomplish that through economic reforms. we have to be moderating our expectations. i think that all of the excitement about cuba, it has to do more with what the united states is doing for cuba, and not what cuba is doing for itself. we have seen reforms in the last ten years. they have created a massive private sector, now 10% of cuba's economy is private. but still, it's an economy at a sub sis tant level. and they don't seem to be too interested in allowing the private sector to exist.
we have seen in the last 15 years, whenever you have a successful business, the cuban authorities move in to try to this rather it. so we have to be cautiously optimistic about the chances for cuba, and the changes, and the needing for reforms. >> we're talking about the changes in the future, and the changes over the next several months. it could be that next month, come january, we have a different party in the white house, and what's your calculation as to what happens to this opening? what happens to the kind of relationship? >> there's no question that there's a risk that it gets completely shut down, certainly those on the right have mostly, with the exception of candidate
trump, have said this is outrageous, we're going to turn everything back, and so that's a real risk. this could get turned around in a really major fashion, but so could a lot of things. part of the reason that the president went now is to sort of force action. it's not a question of if, but when and how everything comes to the diplomatic engagement and the trade embargo listed. so that's a risk, and he's partially forcing the hand. >> so we're pretty much limit to what the president can do, correct? >> the deals come about, and we have seen now hundreds of business deals, airlines opening routes to havana, and it's going to be more difficult for the future president, and even a republican to undo what the president has done. i don't think that there's going to be much of a push for the president, even hillary, to keep pushing forward with cuba.
i think that was a legacy for president obama, and i don't think that the next president is going to spend much time on our ties with cuba. >> cuba, a new era? it's "inside story". >> al jazeera america - proud of telling your stories. >> i wanted to dance, and eventually i started leaving the gangs in the street alone. >> we're pushing the envelope with out science every day, we can save species. >> i'm walking you guys! >> all i wanted to see was her walk. it was amazing. >> these were emotions that i had been dreaming about for so long. >> getting to the heart of the matter. proud to tell your stories. al jazeera america.
i'm speaking with pedro, molly, senior fellow at the center for american progress, and carlos, a latin american policy analyst at the kado institute. one of the big questions, humor rights. there were moments even when the president was on the ground in cuba, there were dissidents arrested, in public n. view of the press as the president was departing cuba. is there enough? do you think, in what the president did and said in that openness to give dissidents in cuba encouragement? or do they think, we got nothing. >> the reaction from the cuban dissidents has been a high point for me, and i think a lot of other observers in this process. they reacted really positively. they engaged in
a way with interaction with a head of state. and also, when the president was meeting with them, and saying, he specifically said multiple times, i'm speaking to the cuban people. and the cuban people seem to have taken that on and really embraced that. so i do think that that has created quite a lot of encourage many. and i think that there are risks to that. it encourages them to speak out more, and take more risks, so it's an incredible moment and what happens now is very important. because as juan carlos points out, the economic factor, on top of that, but actually, economics itself is not enough, we need to see reform and accountability for the government. >> pedro, how do you think that the reform process goes forward? there you think that there is a reform process?
>> there is, and cuba is a very interesting place. on cuban terms, there are many layers to it. and one of the things that many people miss, we're at a generational inflexion here. the older generation, the people who fought the revolution and the people coming down from the hills are passing away. raul is retiring in a couple of years, and you see the generational shift happening in the ranks of the party. and i believe that it's that younger generation that's more open mined that wants traveled around the world that has more contacts with different influences that will accelerate that process. again, tempering what our expectation regulars, people are thinking that there's going to be a palace revolt. and i'm not sensing or seeing it, but a sort of organic change within the system,
that's well underway. >> we have seen in recent months, an increase in the number of people leaving cuba, by raft or in the cases of medical, people who have abandoned their posts in venezuela and are trying to get in the united states to await visa, and some of them were in a position where their relatives back home were already being punished economically for those decisions. why are people choosing now, at a moment when there appears to be an openness, to leave? >> there's the perception in the island that the cuban adjustment act, which is the deal that allows cubans to claim residency when they come to the united states. >> they touch the ground. >> that is about to be revoked under the normalization of
relations between cuba. >> so this is the last chance. >> this is the last chance to come to the united states and get residency, and many of these people have family here, and i'm from costa rica, and we have 1,000 cubans stuck in costa rica for months. and so a number of people leaving cuba in these months. >> i want to turn back to the bigger question here, what does success look like? if you look, you know, maybe five years or ten years down the road, what does success look like in this initiative? >> you see more investing and see more people visiting, on the human rights, some of the most important have to do with media and the succession to information. >> five years down the road, we should know who the next leader of cuba going to be. we should know what that process is going to be.
>> to me, it's a free market, liberal democracy, and anything less than that would be normal for the 21st century. but we're still dealing with a powerful dictatorship. and we don't know much about the person coming to the job. said to be the new leader of cuba, but we know for a fact that raul castro has positioned his family in key posts, in key industries, probably in order to keep control, so the castro family will keep control of the events. we have two possible outcomes here. one will be a revolt, like a revolution in eastern europe and likely, a new leader, and he will help to maneuver to position the dictatorship toward democracy.
>> i want to hear what you have to say. >> success looks like costa rica, success looks like sweden, like chile. success is a small country that allows its economy to blossom and grow, that gives freedom of speech, that gives political freedom. it may keep some of its socialist underpins, the free healthcare, and the free educational system, and a very significant role for government, but that's what success looks like. and that success is driven, i think, by this new relationship with the united states, and the ability to access the united states market and the ability for u.s. investors to invest in cuba. >> thank you, paidro. i want to thank my guests, pedro, molly, and juan carlos. =4 that's the "inside story".
join us tomorrow for a look at russia, and president vladimir putin's latest moves in syria. i'm sheila macvicar, good night. >> thanks for joining us on "america tonight." i'm joie chen. tonight we look behind the walls of communities facing america's toughest challenges. so often housing projects are written off, considered too hopelessly riddled with poverty and crime to even begin to think